DNR creating seed orchard near Tree Improvement Center

Contact: Jason Hartman, 989-390-0279
Agency: Natural Resources

Seedlings grow in a greenhouse near Brighton.

April 13, 2021

Red pine cone and seeds It might look messy now, but work on two parcels of land owned by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in Livingston County eventually will lead to better forests across the state, as well as public green space for neighbors to enjoy.

A timber sale is in progress on the land, a 77-acre parcel and a 50-acre parcel between Brighton Road and Cunnngham Lake Road in Genoa Township. Stump removal and leveling the topography are being planned as the next two steps before trees begin to be planted, said Jason Hartman, silviculturist with the DNR's Forest Resources Division.

Silviculture is the study and practice of forest regeneration and tree quality. The DNR plans to manage the sites as seed orchards within the existing Tree Improvement Center.

"These parcels were previously identified to be auctioned out of state ownership," Hartman said. "Now they will become part of the Tree Improvement Center. It looks a little messy now, but we plan to replant with a staggered approach in the years to come. A staggered approach is used to create sustainable cone supply."

Orchards are used to provide large volumes of pine cones to help in reforestation efforts. Seeds are extracted, nurtured in controlled conditions into seedlings, then transplanted to forest land. Using seed orchards helps guarantee the health and success of future forests.

"Seed is surprisingly difficult to collect in natural settings, especially for red pine," Hartman said. "Seed orchards help us grow healthier, stronger trees. Healthy forests are an important component in mitigating climate change."

Hartman said it may take several years to complete the transition of these lands to their new purpose, but the DNR plans to prioritize the pace of restoration in the development plans. The orchard's final configuration will be determined after receiving input from the township and the public.

Once restoration is complete, people will be encouraged to walk in and enjoy these lands. Seed orchards are grown at low density to produce bushy trees for easier harvesting of cones. They also are mowed to reduce competition and disease. This translates into an open setting with lots of green space.

"The green space can be used for a variety of purposes, and we'll eventually put up some interpretive signs to describe what we're doing here," Hartman said.

The DNR manages 3.9 million acres of state forest. It works with PRT Growing Services at the Tree Improvement Center at Brighton and Chilson roads to nurture tree seedlings for planting. In a typical year, the DNR plants as many as 6 million trees to make sure state forests remain healthy and abundant. The DNR has been certified by two separate, outside agencies since 2005 as using responsible forest management practices.

Learn more about how the DNR plans for and takes care of state forest land at Michigan.gov/Forestry.

An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows.

Tree_nursery: The DNR's Tree Improvement Center in Brighton is planting new seed trees. Seeds will be harvested from pine cones the trees produce, then be grown into seedlings and planted in state forests. The DNR plants up to 6 million trees each year.